Interest and enthusiasm run high in this conference of medium-sized schools, and the quality of the game that's played is barely a step behind. Last season, OHIO U. and MARSHALL were second and third in the nation in total team offense, and Wayne Embry and Hal Greer were close to the leaders in field goal percentages. Two indications that basketball is the sport here: KENT STATE, with 6,800 students, handles 10,000 in its Memorial Gym; WESTERN MICHIGAN has a new $1,200,000 field house with seats for 6,000. Five of the seven teams play a fast break, free-lance style on offense and man-to-man on defense though the zone and zone press are creeping in. All teams have solid cores of returning lettermen this year except Western Michigan, and even the Broncos have two starters back. MIAMI, with four of last season's championship five back, is the choice again. In large and powerful (6 feet 7½, 235 pounds) Wayne Embry, they have the conference's top rebounder, leading scorer and an excellent pivotman. William Brown, Jim Thomas and Eddie Wingard make up a tall, experienced front court. Coach Dick Shrider's only problem is to find another guard to team with veteran John Powell. Though a coaches' consensus puts BOWLING GREEN, Marshall and Ohio in the following three places (in that order), the fact is that all but first (Miami) and last (Western Michigan) appear to be a tossup. Kent State is a genuine sleeper, despite a serious over-all deficiency in height. New Coach Bill Bertka brings an 87-14 record with him from Hancock College in California, and 6-foot-8 junior college All-America Dale Hyatt. He inherits an all-senior front and backcourt: Forwards Bill Benes and Ron Birt; Guards Jim Gorsline and Bill Raybuck. Gorsline should rewrite Kent scoring records this season. Marshall will be off and running as usual, with two fine performers in Hal Greer and Leo Byrd. Greer is that rare collegiate commodity—a natural on defense; Byrd is a speed demon and good feeder. Forward Jack Freeman completes the list of veterans. Coach Rivlin counts on three sophomores to make good: 6-foot-9 Herb Jacobsen, at center, and Guards John Milhoan and Herm Conner. Bowling Green's strong roster of juniors and sophomores indicates a powerful team for next year. The Falcons might have been a title hopeful this season if top scorer and rebounder Rex Leach hadn't been ordered by university physicians to take a complete rest for a year, after an attack of hepatitis. Sophomore Jimmy Darrow (only 5 feet 11) is an outstanding prospect as a playmaker and can also score. Coach Anderson starts with Jim McDonald and Frank Wade in the backcourt and Charles McCampbell up front (all three are juniors, all are 6 feet 2 or under). He has only one big man—senior Al Reinke (6 feet 7), who must come through on the boards. With four sophomores 6 feet 5 or better and eight returning lettermen, including 6-foot-6 Dave Scott, Ohio will have height and experience to spare but, sadly, no speed to burn. Nevertheless, their strong rebounding should keep them in contention against any opponent. Guards Bob Anderson and Larry Williams appear set to start, with pivotman Scott; those lanky newcomers are Howard Jolliff, Verlynn Witte, Bob Gaunt and Herb Westfall. TOLEDO's eastern-style, give-and-go game will be handled by veterans up front but Coach Melvin will have to come up with a sophomore backcourt man to pair with veteran Al Vann. The old hands are Center John Sparvero and Forwards John Arkebauer and Bill Newsom. Scoring punch is looked for in newcomer Ron Oranski. The Rockets should be tough defensively and have balanced height and fair speed, but neither they nor Western Michigan have improved in proportion with the rest of the league, and cannot therefore be upgraded over last season. The Broncos get back Captain Bill Waun up front and Center Edgar Blair, period. Nine sophomores will also be battling for starting positions. Coach Hoy seems strong on Guards Dennis Tepe and Donald Perigo; the only helpful height coming up is Jack Shriver, at 6 feet 6. All Mid-Americans play tough nonconference games in this basketball-happy area.
Man to watch: MIAMI'S WAYNE EMBRY